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Black youth are thriving in Savannah: Here are 8 young people leading the way. – Savannah Morning News

Of the 34 homicides in the city of Savannah in 2021, four were minors under the age of 18 shot by someone 20 years old or younger.
Seemingly, things are not much better this year.
On July 3, two teens in Savannah exchanged gun fire resulting in each suffering from non-life threatening gunshot wounds. They were ages 15 and 16.
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Also: Documents show Savannah Police didn’t fully vet officer who later shot, killed Carver Village manStatistics like these paint a picture that our teens are seemingly lost beyond hope. It’s no surprise that the Black community is often viewed as a culture riddled with gun and gang violence.
As adults, we often dream for a better world for our young people. Believe me when I tell you that dream is not a dream deferred. Not all of our young people in Savannah are into gun and gang violence. Let’s celebrate and honor the ones who are choosing to dream a different dream and hope a better hope for themselves.
Consider 16-year-old Craig Harris, who adamantly refuses to join gangs or get involved with guns. Craig has a 3.2 GPA and will be in the 11th grade at Calvary Day School this fall. He plays football and runs track. Craig has decided to take charge of his future and plans to attend college to study engineering.
For subscribers: Top returning high school football players in Greater Savannah area for the 2022 season
Kudos is also due to Arthur Sparks who was the first student to ever receive two 100s back-to-back on an eighth-grade narrative essay. Arthur is such a good writer that his essay is an example for future 8th grade students!
14-year-old Arthur will begin 9th grade at Groves High School this fall and wants to study finance at the University of Southern California. That’s not just a pipe dream — he was selected to be a part of the Junior Investment Program organized by the 100 Black Men of Savannah.
Gangs and guns don’t seem to be a part of his destiny.
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Recent Maxine Bryant columns: We need to stop ‘polaroiding’ our Black youth with records. Let’s give them a path to dream
Wait, I’m not done yet. I must give a shout out Olivia Brown, who is a senior at Kennesaw State University, majoring in English. This star is setting records in track and field and leaving the competition in the dust.
Olivia attended Effingham County High School and was a part of the competition cheer team and track team. She holds seven (yes seven!) track and field records, but it doesn’t stop there. Olivia is not only a track and field star, but also on top of her game academically also.
While in high school, she was the President of the Future Georgia Educators (FGE) and the Historian of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). She continues to shine in college by being involved in the NAACP and College Girls Rock. This queen junior is both brains and beauty.
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Another young lady who is doing great and outstanding things is 16-year-old Jael Daniel. Jael will start the 11th grade this fall at Savannah Arts Academy. She plays the piano and is the only African American singer in the Skylarks Acapella Chorus.
Additionally, Jael enjoys sports and has played softball and soccer. Music and sports are not all this young lady excels in. Jael is demonstrating strong academic skills with a 97% GPA (A+) ranking.
Brothers Jordan (15) and Samari (18) Dowdy are also worthy of accolades! Jordan is a 9th grade honor roll student at Woodville Thompkins High School. He dreams of being an entrepreneur and has a keen interest in finances and stock. He’s not just talk, either.
More on Samari Dowdy in football: Top returning high school football players in Greater Savannah area for the 2022 season
This young man is participating in a stock market project coordinated by Savannah’s 100 Black Men to gain skills in stock trading. And, he’s already determined what his career path will entail – he wants to earn a law degree and become a defense attorney.
His brother, Samari is setting an excellent example for Jordan to follow. Samari is a senior at Johnson High School and plays three positions in football and runs track. He is making quite an impact in track – he was named #2 in the state in the 100 meter in the 3A sectional meet.
According to Dennis Knight, sports writer for Savannah Morning News, Dowdy has the second-best time in the event in the state. His GPA standing has several colleges considering him and he plans to major in either education or business. Whichever discipline he chooses to concentrate in, he is sure to be successful!
Another young man with promise is Akeem Lane who is a 17-year-old senior at Savannah Christian School. Akeem works at Buffalo Wild Wings and maintains a 3.2 GPA. He is the captain of the football team and dreams of playing professional football.
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In the meantime, he plans to study computer engineering with college offers coming in. He’s considering Shorter University in Rome, GA. This young man has promise, so other offers will be pouring in!
18-year-old Faith Myha Noell Hairston will conclude this list of outstanding Black youth.
Faith graduated from Sol C. Johnson High School in May 2022 and will be attending Georgia State University this fall. She has chosen to major in Business Administration with a concentration in Hospitality Management.
In high school, Faith maintained a 3.2 GPA while playing softball and working full-time at Perry Lane Hotel. As her name implies, Faith lets nothing hold her down. She began working as a pool attendant in 2020. She is now the Inspector and Hospitality Inspector.
Talk about movin’ on up.
These young people stand out as a reflection of most of our Black youth. Youth like them tend not to be newsworthy because they don’t provide a shocking headline. It’s time to change that trend and celebrate young people who are doing positive and even extraordinary things while we consider ways to de-normalize negative behavior.
Organizations like M.A.L.E. Dreamers and AGES are leaders in providing a platform to shape and celebrate young people.
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M.A.L.E. Dreamers is a youth development and mentorship program founded seven years ago by Robert R. Jordan and Adrian Gibson. M.A.L.E. stands for Motivated Aspiring Leaders of Excellence. The organization’s mission is to inspire young men to be empowered leaders within their home, school, and community. Craig, Arthur, Jordan, Samari, and Akeem are all involved with M.A.L.E. Dreamers.
AGES stands for Academic Girls Empowering for Success. Founded in 2006 by Yolandra Shipp, AGES is a female professional leadership program that focuses on young ladies ages 12-18. Ms. Shipp founded AGES to empower young ladies to let their inner crowns shine through academic achievement, professional excellence and civil responsibility. Olivia and Faith participated in AGES.
Mr. David Lewis recommended Jael Daniel. Her family attends Kingdom Life Christian Fellowship. Being surrounded and supported by both her natural family and her church family helps Jael remain motivated to continue to excel.
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As a community, we need to appreciate organizations like M.A.L.E. Dreamers and AGES and the adults who put in their time, effort, and dollars to plant positive seeds in our young people and are successful in diverting them from the negative forces that seek to devour them.
Decisions, plans and strategies we engage in today will define the type of community that will exist for our young people in future years. Are we creating a supportive community that will continue to nurture them to be their best selves – in terms of natural and institutional resources? Or, will decisions, plans and strategies before us today negatively impact the richness of the Black community?
A Sudanese proverb offers wisdom to consider: “We [should] desire to bequeath two things to our children. The first one is roots; the other one is wings. Roots are the foundation we lay in terms of our community infrastructure and resources. Wings are indicative of how well we’ve prepared them to fly! We should be the wind beneath their wings so they can soar.
Maxine L. Bryant, Ph.D., is a contributing lifestyles columnist. She is an assistant professor, Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology; director, Center for Africana Studies, and director, Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Center at Georgia Southern University, Armstrong Campus.
Contact her at 912-344-3602 or email dr.maxinebryant@gmail.com. See more columns by her at SavannahNow.com/lifestyle/.

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